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Sen. Johnson Maintains Reconciliation Over WECC Establishment

By Bill W. Cooper Nimba County Senator, Prince Johnson, is calling for reconciliation efforts to be a priority rather than pushing for the establishment of a War and Economic Crimes Court (WECC), expressing his concerns about the potential damage the court could have on the country’s fragile peace and reconciliation process. The Nimba County Senator argued that prioritizing reconciliation efforts would allow Liberians to move forward and rebuild a unified nation instead of the WECC establishment. Sen. Johnson, a former leader of the defunct Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL), who allegedly tortured and murdered Liberia’s former President, Samuel Kanyon Doe in 1990, and is currently representing the people of Nimba County, has long been criticized for his involvement in the civil war and his alleged involvement in committing war crimes. But since the call for the WECC establishment, the Nimba Senator has emerged as a prominent voice calling for reconciliation in the country, suggesting that the nation should focus on healing wounds rather than seeking justice through the WECC. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) that was established in Liberia with the aim of promoting healing and reconciliation in 2009, recommended the establishment of a War and Economic Crimes Court to ensure justice for victims. However, progress in implementing these recommendations has been slow, and many victims are still waiting for justice. The former commanding general of the INPFL, a breakaway of Charles Taylor’s NPFL, remains to be known as a fierce killer during the war. It is alleged that Sen. Johnson may have killed some prominent Liberians, including Fred Blay, former Minister of Labor in Samuel Doe’s government; Larry Borteh, a former member of the People’s Redemption Council; Michael Doe, a former employee of Hotel Africa, who, according to eyewitnesses, was thrown from a high upper floor to the ground at the hotel; Eric Scott, a former Liberian diplomat at the Liberian Embassy in Washington, and husband of Debbie Scott, the proprietor of the School of Prime System (SPS), and Thelma Momolue Gardiner, former Senior Security Officer for President William V.S. Tubman and Acting Director of Police during the administration of William Tolbert. The list of Johnson’s victims also includes musical icons, Tecumseh Roberts, Gedeh Rooster, and Robert Toe. But President Boakai, in an effort to end the culture of impunity and disregarding the implications for one of his key political allies, announced his government’s plans for the WECC establishment. In his inaugural message, Boakai was emphatic on the need to hold people accountable for war and economic crimes, stressing, “Corruption is a menace and a drawback.” This, he emphasized, “Commitment to the application of the rule of law, therefore, will be essential in the fight against corruption, as halting the tide of public corruption is an important part of our development agenda for the transformation of our country.” The President added, “We must, accordingly, reset the fight against corruption and impunity to demonstrate firmness and resolve because an estimated quarter of a million of our people perished in the war, and we cannot forever remain unmoved by this searing national tragedy without closure.” “So, we have decided to set up an office to explore the feasibility for the establishment of War and Economic Crimes Court (WECC) to provide an opportunity for those who bear the greatest responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity to account for their actions in court. We shall seek advice and assistance from the Office of the United Nations Secretary-General to ensure that the court, if found feasible, will be in compliance with the highest standards of similar courts everywhere. The Legislature will have its say, appropriately, in this matter, in order to avoid any appearance of vendetta or witch-hunt,” the Liberian leader assured. But, in what is believed to be a reaction towards the President’s plan, Sen. Johnson, in his sermon at his church over the weekend, argued, “Establishing a war crimes court will only deepen the divisions among our people.” “Because supporters of those accused are all standing by to resist their arrest. So, our focus should be on healing the wounds of the past and working towards a peaceful and prosperous future,” he added.

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